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Training Tip: Flying with passengersTraining Tip: Flying with passengers

Becoming a great pilot is art built on skill. Earning a pilot certificate gives you many opportunities to discover this for yourself as you pursue a prized goal of flight training: exercising the privilege of flying with passengers.

A happy passenger is mentally content and physically at ease throughout the flight. Photo by Mike Fizer.

Count on this: Each flight will be educational and entertaining for you and for those who join you.

Something else to count on: The finer points of how you provide an awesome introduction to aviation will likely go unnoticed by the beneficiaries of your efforts. Covering every element would take volumes, but here are a few points to ponder about pleasing passengers (aside from your regulatory responsibilities as pilot in command).

A guiding idea for flying with friends and family is this: A happy passenger is mentally content and physically at ease.

Noise is jarring to both conditions, so bring headsets for all, or earplugs.

Loop your passengers in, but don’t strangle them in details about the planned flight. Shorter is better for starters. Save the photo flight or the hamburger hop for next time.

Keep fresh air flowing, on the ground and in flight. Close windows yourself when necessary.

Bravado aside, passengers typically find turbulence tedious. Schedule to avoid, and if encountered, fly to evade by seeking a smoother altitude or by flying slightly offshore—where thermals can’t build—if on a coastal flight.

Minimize maneuvering. Those you must perform should be smoother and more coordinated than you’ve ever made them before. No adverse yaw allowed! Uncoordinated flight is a famous sick-maker, even in dead-smooth air.

You may feel tempted to demonstrate a maneuver from your training. Don’t. (See previous item.)

About passengers: No two are alike. Some absorb flight in awestruck silence. Others respond with animated delight to every sensory stimulation. Both kinds make wonderful aerial companions.

When you were completing your training, your flight instructor wanted your takeoffs and landings to meet specific parameters. Here’s one to focus on: extreme smoothness. Landing a single-engine airplane full of satisfied customers on a 5,200-foot paved runway after many sightseeing flights as a commercial pilot working for an FBO, I enjoyed cushioning the landings as if touching down on a rough field.

The method wasn’t technically necessary, but it brought appreciative responses from the paying passengers, and brought me pride of proficiency.

As you fly with passengers, you will find your own ways to charm them with flight.

And remember—word gets around. If your list of prospective passengers grows, it will show you are earning a reputation as an awesome aviator.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Flight Training, Flight Planning, Takeoffs and Landings
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